School children from East London have taken part in a competition to come up with ideas for a series of dynamic, imagined community events for Westfield Stratford City and the future Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The winning idea was for a two day community festival celebrating different cultures, which was developed by students at Lammas School and Sports College in Waltham Forest.

After six months of activities in schools, today the winning class from each of the four participating schools presented their best ideas to an expert panel, including Bob Neill MP, Communities Minister, Department for Communities and Local Government; Nick Bitel, Board Member of the Olympic Park Legacy Company; John Burton, Director, Westfield Stratford City; and Sir Keith Ajegbo, Trustee of the Citizenship Foundation.      
The ‘Make it our Future’ project has seen employees from the Legacy Company and Westfield Stratford City volunteer to visit schools in Waltham Forest, Newham, Hackney and Tower Hamlets, and lead discussions with over 350 pupils about their ambition to transform the area with new homes, shops and leisure facilities, sports venues and community facilities.

Runners-up were Forest Gate school in Newham, St Paul’s Way Trust school in Tower Hamlets and Cardinal Pole Catholic school in Hackney, who came up with innovative ideas ranging from a jobs and culture fair for local people to a week long event in the Park showcasing possible careers in sectors like fashion, retail, catering, sport and design.

Communities Minister, Bob Neill MP, said:

“Today has been a really great opportunity to see the excitement and enthusiasm of young people in East London to get involved in the Olympics, not just as a sporting event but as a regeneration project and a legacy for prosperity and growth.

“The ideas and appetite of the young people here to have their voices heard and be engaged in the regeneration of their area just goes to show how much people can bring to the development of their communities when given the opportunity.

“It’s local people who know their area best, not Whitehall, and it is their input that will transform paper plans, plots of land and piles of bricks into vibrant communities which people want to be part of.”

Nick Bitel, Board Member of the Olympic Park Legacy Company, said:

“It is vital that young people share their ideas on what they would like to see in and around the future Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Westfield Stratford City, and that we embrace these ideas which will give young people a sense of pride and ownership in where they live. A well programmed series of events will help create a vibrant, exciting destination.

“By going into schools, we can get pupils involved in what is happening around them and they can inspire others to think about the opportunities that are coming to East London.”

John Burton, Director, Westfield Stratford City, said:

“We have been working in local schools for a number of years, and the ‘Make it our Future’ programme is yet another example of the amazing creativity demonstrated by young people in East London. It is fantastic that they are so enthusiastic about the changes taking place in their local area, and are able to identify, and contribute to, the benefits and opportunities that Westfield Stratford City and the Olympic Park will bring.”

Andy Thornton, Chief Executive, Citizenship Foundation, said:

” ‘Make it our Future’ has inspired local young people to get to grips with the regeneration of East London. By working alongside professionals from the Olympic Park Legacy Company and Westfield Stratford City, students from schools in the Olympic host boroughs have learnt about the needs of their communities, the purpose and impact of the regeneration happening around them, and the way in which local democracy works in the process. Looking to the future, the Citizenship Foundation is excited by the prospect of taking this innovative model to other areas of regeneration, developing young people’s skills and knowledge, and enabling them to participate in the regeneration of their local communities.”

Over the past few months, workshops held at the four schools have explored the positive impact of the regeneration of the Olympic Park and Westfield Stratford City, understanding their effects on the local community and the role of key decision makers such as the Government and councils.

Pupils also had the chance to visit the Olympic Park and Westfield Stratford City, and canvassed their local communities for their opinions.

The winning ideas from each school are listed below:

Waltham Forest – Lammas School and Sports College

A two day community festival celebrating different cultures  and encouraging community cohesion through sharing, and trying new things from sports challenges to culinary specialities.

Newham – Forest Gate School

An event to mix a jobs fair with a cultural event, so that you use music, dance and food from different cultures to attract people to the event to learn about job opportunities, whilst at the same time celebrating culture and creating an income for stall-holders. The event would be free entry and employers would have stands to give people information on jobs. Alongside employers, there will be mentors, coaches and advisors to give people help in completing CVs and application forms, and tips on interviewing techniques.

Tower Hamlets – St Paul’s Way Trust School

Students proposed a ‘Youth Employment Programme Festival in the Park’. They were focussed on the younger age groups as they felt this was the key stage in which young people became interested in their future and would be able to take the appropriate steps to forge a career. Their proposals included a ‘career day’ feature, whereby you could approach different employers and get a better idea for what they did in reality. The event would cost £1 per ticket and they would hold various fundraising activities in order to support the event.

Hackney – Cardinal Pole Catholic School

“Make a Change” would be a week long event in the Park showcasing possible careers in sectors like fashion, retail, catering, sport, design and music & the performing arts with guest speakers and taster sessions. The event culminates in a concert and performances at the end of the week and there would be opportunities for people to try out their new skills and gain work experience by helping to put on the concert. The event is aimed at people of all ages, but particularly at young people and the unemployed. It aims to help people take advantage of the job opportunities on offer in the area.